Rapp sports update
With September coming to a close, Rapp’s fall sports teams are approaching the midpoint of their seasons, with victories and standout performances rolling in like the ripe apples from local orchards.
Cross country leads off this week, fresh off their performances at last week’s Bull Run District meet and yesterday’s home course opener (results of the latter too late for this article). Last week at Central, the teams ran strongly, with the boys’ team taking fourth out of seven and the girls’ squad placing third out of four. Coach Kenny Burt reports that almost all runners are progressing exactly as planned, with new personal records being set weekly.
Individual performances included another first-place finish for senior Gavin Jenkins, last year’s state runner-up, a 14th-place finish for Sam Barnes, 22nd and 23rd for teammates Jordan Rector and Christian Poffenbarger, and 31st for Justin Ramey. On the girls’ side, Jacklyn Humphries took sixth place, followed by Skylar Culbertson in seventh and Savannah Hensley in ninth. Camryn Clark took 13th and Brooke Athelli 19th to round out the top placers for the Rapp squad.
In invitational meets, this past weekend Gavin Jenkins completed in the prestigious Oatlands Invitational near Leesburg. Competing against many of the best runners from all across the state, Gavin finished 16th with a time of 16:40, dramatically improving over last year’s 40th-place finish and 17:47 time.
Many of the varsity runners will be competing in the Stonewall Invitational this Saturday (Sept. 24) on the New Market Battlefield grounds. The teams then compete at Strasburg Sept. 28 for a Bull Run District matchup before returning to the home Blue Rock course on Wednesday, Oct. 5. Running against larger schools during the regular season, hopes are high that strong individual and team results will be posted at the conference championship meet Oct. 25 at Lancaster High School, the first step on the road to States.
Our Junior Panther runners have competed in several events, the latest of which was last Tuesday in a Valley Middle School Conference-sanctioned event at St. Joe’s School in Martinsburg, West Virginia. On the girls’ side, Rachel Weghorst finished fourth, Olivia Gibson seventh, Cassia Gainer 10th, Jaden Cillo, Caitlyn Clark, Sarah Dodson and Lily Jenkins 12th through 15th, respectively, and Ava Genho 17th, giving their team enough points to finish second out of six teams.
On the boys’ side, Chase Wharton finished fifth, Luke Ellis 10th and Nick Grigsby 19th to put the boys’ team fourth of six. This past Tuesday the team hosted a VMSC event and have two more events scheduled before the VMSC Championship Tournament Oct. 13 at Randolph-Macon Academy.
In J.P. boys’ soccer, the Panthers scored a win on the pitch in their first outing of the year, a home match Sept. 12 against VMSC opponent Chelsea Academy. Luke Jung started the scoring just after the start of the game and then Luke fired another goal and the Panthers never looked back. Chelsea got one past the Rapp keep but the Paratore brothers, Matthew and Nick, added two more with the final point in the 5-1 victory coming off a Matthew Paratore penalty kick over the Chelsea defender wall. The team travels to Fresta Valley tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 23) and then returns to Panther Stadium Sept. 29, hosting Wakefield Country Day School in a game beginning at 4:30.
In volleyball, the Rapp JV and varsity teams have continued with their torrid pace, maintaining their undefeated record thus far in the season. Moving into their Bull Run District schedule, the teams have racked up straight-set wins over Strasburg at home and Warren County on the road and then, in a preview of possible postseason play, added a victory over conference foe Northumberland last Friday night. Outstanding serves and set-ending hits have been a hallmark of this year’s Rapp teams and, although they have been tested by some quality opponents and even been behind in some sets, the girls have showed their mettle and prevail with wins.
Some notable individual performances include Julia Estes’ combined 41 kills in the last three games, including 18 in one night against Warren County. Julia’s teammates Sarah East, Brianna Settle, Amber Smoot and Ellie Young have combined for more than 50 kills in the past three games with setter Kayla Robey tallying over 75 assists and eight kills of her own in that span. Libero Jessica Thorne has had an outstanding defensive season, exemplified by the Warren County game in which she had eight digs and a flawless pass-receive game. Strong serves have also been a constant for the Rapp squad, including an eight-point run by Amber Smoot against Northumberland.
This past Tuesday the teams hosted Madison County (results too late for this report), but win or lose they are both assured of an early first-place standing in the district. Coach Courtney Atkins’ (varsity) and Seth Wyatt’s (JV) teams return to the home gym next Tuesday (Sept. 27) to meet the Eagles of Clarke County, JV tipoff at 6. Rapp fans won’t want to miss an opportunity to see this team showcase their talents.
On the Junior Panther side of the net, Coach Jeff Atkins’ team has only suffered one defeat thus far, a three-game heartbreaker at Madison County. But that loss has been sandwiched between a win over Wakefield Country Day School and subsequent wins over Chelsea Academy and Fresta Valley. The JP squad returned to their home court this past Tuesday (results too late for this report), seeking to avenge their loss to Madison. The team will be back home again Sept. 27 at 4:30 against St. Joseph’s, providing the opening game in a volleyball tripleheader.
JP football had their first game last Thursday, traveling to Prospect Heights Middle School. Although they ended up on the short end of the final, Coach Rich Hogan was pleased with the team’s effort and with the performance as a whole. Highlights included two first-half rushing touchdowns by J.B. Leidenheimer, an interception by Elijah Settle, a successful two-point conversion and a 14-12 halftime lead. Coach Hogan also noted the offensive contributions of players Taven Murrah and Mason Ramey.
Untimely turnovers in the second half proved to be Rapp’s undoing and led to the final 14-24 score, a victory for Prospect Heights. The game was the JP squad’s first and was a huge learning experience; for many Rapp players this was their first organized football game ever. The squad travels to Locust Grove today (Thursday, Sept. 22) and has their home opener on Monday (Sept. 26), kickoff at 6 p.m.
Varsity football struggled to get back in the win column after taking their home opener against Grace Christian in late August. Consecutive home losses to George Mason and Page County sent coaches and players back to the practice field with a determined attitude to right the Panther ship. Their hard work was evident last Friday night at home, where they lost to the Crusaders of Central Maryland Christian but provided fans with electrifying moments throughout what was a fun game to watch.
Untimely turnovers and miscues plagued the Panthers, leading to stalled drives and scoring opportunities for the Warriors. Despite those setbacks, Rapp was in the game until late in the fourth quarter, driving for a score that would have put them within reach of a victory. Another costly turnover killed the drive and led to another Crusaders touchdown. And while the game ended with a loss, there were many moments that showed the marked improvement this squad has shown this year.
Game highlights included Michael Reid’s 83 yards rushing, including a 19-yard rumble for a touchdown, and he brought the crowd to their feet with a thrilling, 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Jack Massie, in addition to leading the team on offense as the starting quarterback, also led the team on defense with five tackles and one assist.
The varsity squad takes to the road for the next several weeks, with away games at Portsmouth Christian on Saturday (Sept. 24), at King and Queen Central on Friday, Sept. 30, at Massanutten Military on Friday, Oct. 7, and then Quantico High School on Friday, Oct. 14. They return to Panther Stadium for their final home game of the season on Oct. 21 against Kenston Forest, in their Homecoming Weekend game. Make plans now to be at Panther Stadium for Homecoming to cheer on our Panthers, marvel at the synchronicity of the Cheer Squad, enjoy the award-winning Panther Marching Band and share in the fun of the coronation of the Homecoming Court.
And speaking of band, the Panther Marching Band traveled to their first competition of the year at Woodbridge High School, and Jason Guira’s musicians returned home with four trophies — second place in music, second-place drum major, first-place marching and second place overall for Class A. Best of luck to our band as they continue with their competition season in the coming weekends.
Stay current with all Rapp sports scores and schedules at rappahannockcountyhs.rschoolteams.com, where Athletic Director Brandon Burley has all the latest. Go Rapp!